Directed by Oliver Zel, Hunter D’Ancona
Stranded in a vast arid desert, two resentful lovers are forced to endure one another as they await their rescue. Attempting to reconcile old traumas, their journey across endless dunes unravels a violent past with lasting insidious effects. Their love wearing thin, the two are forced to recognize the sadistic nature of their relationship and its troubling imprint on their ability to love and be loved.
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Oliver Zel (20) is a New York-based film director, cinematographer, editor, and photographer currently enrolled at NYU Tisch School of the Arts in Film/TV Production. As a queer Cuban-American artist raised in Miami, Zel’s visual art possesses a bold editorial aesthetic, centered on themes of masculinity, sex, and the queer identity. Zel is a prolific visual artist (OliverZel.com) whose work has been shown at Art Basel and the ICA Miami. In 2022, Zel completed his first short film as co-director, cinematographer, writer, and editor, entitled Blister, currently being submitted for National and LGBTQ festival consideration.
Hunter D’Ancona (19) is a writer, director, and editor currently studying Screenwriting for Film & TV at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Class of ’24. D’Ancona is a born and bred New Yorker who grew up making short and experimental projects which honed his guerilla filmmaking approach. D’Ancona’s previous micro-budget shorts have been featured in the New York Lift-Off Film Festival and the NY Flash Film Festival. In early 2022 D’Ancona completed his debut short film, Blister, now entering the US festival circuit. He served as co-director, writer, editor, and actor on the project.
Blister is the culmination of a year-long creative journey to construct a film deeply personal to us. Growing up with distinct perspectives of what it means to be masculine today (one of us queer and one straight) our mutual understanding of the queer male identity on-screen was extremely narrow, warped, and flawed. Our short film is an investigation on how toxic masculinity can profoundly and often unknowingly permeate the queer man’s ability to love and be loved. Blister captures a painful moment in a couple’s relationship that illustrates how men, unaware of the insidious effects of society’s limited definitions of gender, suffer deeply and are ill-equipped to redefine new ways to love.
As longtime friends but first-time collaborators, we set out to tell an intimate, homo-normative story that felt true to both of us as men, but with a goal to convey a level of emotional complexity between queer men rarely depicted in film.
Making the most of our time during the pandemic, we set our production sights on the vast California desert and its endless dunes to evoke the abrasive and mountainous distance between our protagonists. With a shoestring budget, a crew of 6, and daily temperatures approaching 100 degrees, we were committed to achieving an ethereal quality to elevate the importance of our story.
During post-production, the film underwent a notable shift in story: what began as a snapshot of a one-night stand, the story evolved into a more poignant case study that transcended a one-off relationship. By removing character names and exposition, we reworked the film’s narrative to focus on the emotional dissonance between the two lovers, revealing a dysfunctional dynamic, not uncommon in hyper-masculine partnerships. In simplifying our story, we were able to explore the vicious cycle of abuse – both physical and emotional – inherent in our troubled lovers. Upon the film’s completion, we believe that Blister tells a beautiful yet unforgiving story about a longing for companionship against a need for dominance that recognizes how deeply men have been socially scarred.